The former Verve singer plays a sold-out acoustic gig in Chicago...

RICHARD ASHCROFT returned to the stage on Friday (January 19) for an acoustic show at the CHICAGO DOUBLE DOOR, the opening date on his rearranged US tour.

The ex-Verve singer, who had been out of action since breaking two ribs and injuring his back when he fell from the stage at Birmingham Academy in December, played two sold-out dates at the 400-capacity club. Three backing musicians – a saxophone/flute player, a percussionist and wife Kate Radley on keyboards – joined him onstage for parts of the acoustic shows.

Outside, tickets were going for more than three times their $22 face value. Inside, Ashcroft showed only a few effects from his layoff. “It’s great for me to get back into my natural habitat,” he said during his performance, which featured a mix of solo and Verve material.

The gig featured both the familiar – ‘Lucky Man’, ‘You On My Mind In My Sleep’, ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ – and the rare – B-sides such as ‘So Sister’ and ‘(Could Be) A Country Thing, City Thing, Blues Thing’.

Ashcroft looked comfortable onstage, though he acknowledged to the crowd the differences between the acoustic orchestration of his current tour and the lush production of his debut solo album, ‘Alone With Everybody’.

“Anyone who has the record knows that it’s very dense and it has a lot of things in there,” he said. “I appreciate you for appreciating it in this set-up.”

Earlier in the day, Ashcroft visited New York to record an appearance on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’. At the show, Ashcroft recorded an acoustic performance of ‘New York’ to be broadcast nationwide that night.

When he returned to the stage for an encore at about 11.30pm, he joked: “Apparently, I’m live in New York as we speak.” (The ‘Late Show’ episode is scheduled to air in the UK at 11.15pm this evening on ITV2.)

Ashcroft then continued with ‘History’ and closed the 70-minute show with a solo acoustic version of ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’.

The following night (January 20), Ashcroft played the venue again, although the set was 20 minutes longer. It also featured more of Ashcroft’s most familiar material – ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘A Song for the Lovers’.

He also teased the crowd with a verse from the song ‘Lonely Soul’ which he debuted live in November at Brixton Academy with UNKLE. “We could perform that, but that one would be a bit difficult,” he joked, referring to the acoustic stage set-up.

Ashcroft is to play three UK shows at the London Brixton Academy on February 21 and 23-24.